4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Jim Crumley happened to mention that he had been on a trip to the Lakes to his publisher, Sara Hunt. Knowing that she is from that part of the world he was expecting a different conversation to the one that he actually got. Would he like to write a book about the Lakes? He was not sure, this was far south of his well known local patch and even had its own language. Lochs are now lakes, burns are known as becks and they don’t call a mountain a mountain there.
He was unsure, so decided to see what books there were on the region. He spent an hour in a book shop that had a Scotland and Cumbria section and never made it to the Scotland section. He remained unconvinced that he could have anything extra to offer to the already published books. So a little while later, he headed south on the M80, destination High Rigg, and as he arrived the landscape reached out a hand to bid him welcome.
When I embarked on this book’s journey, my only idea was to seek out those elements of what Lakeland has become where true wilderness occurs.
So begins his journey around this magnificent landscape. One of the first things that he spots is a church. Not particularly natural, and not a particularly attractive church either, but inside is a stunning altar designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott, the same man who designed the museum in his home town of Dundee. Perhaps there would be something about this place, after all, something that was confirmed not long after he watched a peregrine fly into the arc of a rainbow.
He has a whole landscape to discover and with that good omen in his mind, he sets about climbing the hills watching barn owls, discovering hidden oak copses, listening to wrens in holly bushes and most importantly spending lots of time sitting in places watching the natural world unfurl about his. This wouldn’t be the Lakes without Wordsworth being mentioned and he is mentioned in context in this book a few times. But this is about the wildlife, and as the book goes on he slowly falls in love with this new landscape and its new and yet still familiar natural world.
So often, the nature writers only task worth the effort is to become nature. Watch and be, and write down what unfolds in that particular collision of time and place.
This is another great book by Crumley. Being taken out of the comfort zone of his usual patch in Scotland has proved his mettle as a quality writer about the natural world. All the way through he tries to avoid the cliched trips in the area, instead, he tries to look for the places that not many have looked for or even seen. I liked the way that he expresses doubts over the area at the beginning explaining that it was the idea of his publisher. However, the wilderness of the national park slowly embraces him and he has a very different opinion of the place by the end of the book. Great stuff.
The cover of this book is just stunning. Really stunning. It is by the artist, Tessa Kennedy whose website is here